Throughout history, honey has been used for its innumerable medicinal properties. Particularly when combined with the healing qualities of various plants, it’s a remedy for many ailments.
Even modern medicine admits to its proven healing qualities. Medical journals often cite it sans the stigma that traditional herbal healing often receives.
Honey possesses antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, meaning you can used it to not only soothe burns, cuts, bruises and other wounds but also to speed recovery. Manuka honey, a New Zealand honey from the nectar of the Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) plant, was even approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2007 for use in treating wounds and burns with Medihoney®.
That said, you needn’t buy an FDA-approved honey product to harness the healing qualities of honey. Simply smear some raw honey on a wound or burn and watch its miraculous healing qualities take effect.
Seek medical advice if the injury continues to worsen, of course.
Cold & Allergy Relief
Honey—local raw honey, in particular—is a powerful cold and allergy medicine. A common claim is that ingesting honey made by bees from local pollen helps alleviate allergies by boosting immunity to allergens.
It certainly doesn’t hurt. But some scientists claim that any allergens it contains are broken down by stomach acids before they can take effect, as opposed to taking a coated allergy pill.
Scientists are more kind when it comes to the cold-relief effects, though. Because of its ability to soothe inflamed membranes along with its sleep-aid qualities (yes, it can help with sleep, too), studies have shown that honey is as affective, if not more, than pharmaceutical cough suppressants and antihistamine in easing nighttime coughs.
Buckwheat honey in particular is a powerful cough suppressant.
Canadian Family Physician, a peer-reviewed medical journal from the College of Family Physicians of Canada, concluded in “Honey for treatment of cough in children” (December 2014 issue) that “Honey can be recommended as a single dose of 2.5 milliliters before bedtime for children older that 1 year of age with cough. (Babies younger than 1 year old should never be given honey, as it contains a bacteria that their digestive systems can’t handle yet and that can cause infant botulism.)
To even further improve its cough-suppressant qualities, combine with plants such as marshmallow root, ginger root and slippery elm bark, which have anti-inflammatory and mucilage properties.
Honey has a wide range of properties you can apply for healthy skin and hair, and even for cosmetics. Apply a little bit as a soothing skin cleanser and face wash. It can improve and soften your skin as opposed to many soaps and detergents, which can be harsh and strip away the skin’s natural oils.
If you wear makeup and need to wash your face more than once a day, wash at least once with honey. You can also apply it to relieve skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis because of the antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties.
Just rub a little on your skin daily. Or look for a company that sells natural honey-based skin care products.
Energy, Stamina & Sleep Aid
You can use honey as a pre-exercise energy boost and a post-exercise energy-recovery aid, as well as a sleep aid.
Yes, it does sound contradictory that a single substance can be a sleep aid and an energy boost. Raw honey, though, is a natural carbohydrate. It easily absorbs into the body as liver glycogen, the body’s natural energy storage.
And when it’s time to think about sleep? Those same qualities surprisingly work well to prepare the body for a well-rested sleep. By restocking the liver’s glycogen supply, it helps prevent your brain waking you up because of a need for fuel.
In addition, raw honey can provide your brain with a supply of melatonin by stimulating the release of tryptophan. This amino acid converts to serotonin that is, in turn, converted to melatonin.
Beekeeper hobbyists in particular often have a larger supply of honey than they know what to do with. A tasty and soul-lifting solution? Make mead from it.
Mead is the oldest alcoholic beverage. It will quite literally make itself.
Yeasts convert sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. In its dormant state, honey contains tons of sugars, as well as wild yeasts brought in by the bees on pollen.
This yeast can remain inert for long periods, centuries even, unless activated by water. Water acts to “wake up” all of the yeast and other microbes that are lying dormant in the honey. This causes it to begin fermenting.
Even a little water can cause mead to “make” itself. But if you intentionally mix water (nonchlorinated) with raw honey, you can make mead with your desired level of sweetness-to-dryness.
There’s a bit of a process to it, but it really is fairly simple to make a natural wild-fermented mead. To enhance its flavor and medicinal qualities, try mixing in various fruits and herbs for a truly heavenly beverage.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.